Beneficiary Designation Guidelines

A beneficiary receives certain plan benefits after you die or if you cannot be located when a benefit must be paid. A beneficiary may be a person, an organization (religious, educational, charitable, etc.), a trust or another legal entity. More than one beneficiary may share your benefits. The beneficiary rules of General Board-administered plans are binding and supersede the provisions of your will, your divorce order or your other wishes.

Who Are Your Beneficiaries?

Required Spousal Beneficiary
You may name beneficiaries, known as designated beneficiaries, on Benefits Access or on a Designation of Beneficiary form. Please note: General Board-administered plans generally require that, if you are married at the time of your death, your surviving spouse will be your sole beneficiary—even if you have designated other beneficiaries—unless your surviving spouse has consented to your designated beneficiary(ies). Your spouse’s consent must be in writing and witnessed by a notary public. Your spouse may consent at the time you designate your beneficiary(ies), shortly after your death or at any time in between. Without that consent, benefits due to a beneficiary under a plan will be paid to your surviving spouse and not to your designated beneficiaries. Your surviving spouse is defined as the person to whom you were legally married at your death under the laws of the jurisdiction where you resided at your death.

Designated Beneficiaries
When you designate one or more beneficiaries on Benefits Access or on a Designation of Beneficiary form, you will designate them as primary beneficiaries and/or secondary beneficiaries. If any one or more of your primary beneficiaries survives you (and can be located), he, she, it or they will receive 100% of your eligible benefits (assuming that your surviving spouse, if any, has consented as described above or that you have designated your surviving spouse as your sole primary beneficiary). Your secondary beneficiary(ies) will receive benefits only if no primary beneficiaries survive you (or none can be located). When you designate more than one primary or secondary beneficiary, benefits will be divided equally among either class of beneficiaries, unless you specify otherwise. When you name a group of beneficiaries, please name each of them individually. The General Board cannot identify all the individuals in groups such as “my heirs” or “all my cousins.” If you have designated your spouse as a beneficiary and you later divorce, your now-divorced spouse will be automatically revoked as your designated beneficiary (without changing any of your other designated beneficiaries). You must re-designate your divorced spouse after the divorce if you want him or her to be your designated beneficiary.

Default Beneficiaries
If you do not designate any beneficiaries, if all of your designated beneficiaries die before you or if the General Board is unable to locate any designated beneficiaries who may still be alive, your plan benefits will be paid to your default beneficiary. If you are married at the time of your death, your default beneficiary is your surviving spouse. If you are single at the time of your death, your default beneficiary is your estate.

What Benefits Are Payable to Beneficiaries?

Beneficiaries receive only certain benefits from General Board-administered plans after your death. Beneficiaries receive whatever remains in a plan account; any monthly payments due under a life and term certain annuity, if you die before the end of the term certain; or a death or survivor benefit under certain welfare plans.

Many General Board-administered plans also pay monthly defined benefit or annuity benefits for your life and sometimes for the life of a survivor, such as your surviving spouse. Such a survivor is called a contingent annuitant. Beneficiaries do not receive contingent annuitant benefits, and changing your beneficiary will not change your contingent annuitant.

Beneficiaries vs. Contingent Annuitants

A beneficiary receives a known amount of money from a plan after your death. A contingent annuitant instead receives an open-ended series of monthly payments for the remainder of his or her life after your death. You name (or the plan names) your contingent annuitant when you apply for an annuity or a monthly benefit. That annuity or monthly benefit for life (or for more than one life; or for the longer of a period certain or life) is funded by converting your plan account balance into an annuity. As part of that conversion, your account balance becomes part of a plan funding pool that pays annuity benefits to all annuitants. Your former account is no longer in your name and is no longer payable to a beneficiary. Instead, the funding pool pays a specified monthly amount of benefits for however long you, and your contingent annuitant, may live (the amount being based on each of your actuarially-expected lifetimes).

While your beneficiary may be changed at any time on Benefits Access or by submitting a new Designation of Beneficiary form, your contingent annuitant is an irrevocable election. Your contingent annuitant cannot be changed once monthly benefits start, even if your contingent annuitant dies before you or if you marry, divorce or remarry, because the amount of benefits payable per month was computed based on that particular contingent annuitant’s expected lifetime.

Specifically, your beneficiary designation will not apply to the following benefits you and your surviving contingent annuitant may be entitled to:

  • monthly benefits from the Pre-82 Plan;
  • a lifetime annuity from the Ministerial Pension Plan (MPP);
  • monthly benefits from the defined benefit portion of the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP);
  • monthly benefits from the Collins Pension Plan for Missionaries (Collins Pension Plan); or
  • any lifetime annuities being paid to you from other General Board-administered retirement plans.

Powers of Attorney

If you sign a power of attorney making someone else your agent or attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf, you should be aware that your state’s law may limit that agent’s authority to designate beneficiaries on your behalf. If you want your agent to have the authority to designate one or more beneficiaries for your plan benefits, you should specifically state that in your power of attorney, especially if you want your agent or attorney-in-fact to be able to name him- or herself as your beneficiary.

Add to or Update Beneficiaries

When you designate a beneficiary, always provide as much detail regarding the beneficiary as you can. This makes it easier for the General Board to locate the beneficiary after your death. Include names, birth dates, addresses, relationships to you and Social Security or tax ID numbers. If you are naming a trust as your beneficiary, a good format to use is: “John Smith, not personally, but as trustee of the Mary Smith Trust UAD [under an agreement dated] May 1, 2011.” If the General Board cannot locate a beneficiary, that beneficiary will not collect any benefits due.

It is a good idea to check your beneficiary designations every one or two years, and to make adjustments as needed. To add or change beneficiaries, or to update your beneficiaries’ personal information, enter the changes on Benefits Access or complete and return the Designation of Beneficiary form. Beneficiary designations must be received by the General Board during your lifetime to be valid.

Please note: Even though you designate a beneficiary and the General Board accepts your designation, that provides no assurance that you have benefits due to a beneficiary under a particular General Board-administered plan or any General Board-administered plan at all, nor that there will be such benefits due at your death. If you are entitled to any benefits administered by Unum, such as UMLifeOptions optional life insurance, you need to contact Unum directly at 1-800-985-0242 to designate or change your beneficiary for such benefits.

Plan Designation(s)

If you check the “All plans” box on a Designation of Beneficiary form, your beneficiary designation(s) will apply to all current and future General Board-administered retirement plans in which you are enrolled or have account balances, and to all welfare plans under which you have a death or survivor benefit (but not including UMLifeOptions plans). If you do not check any boxes on a Designation of Beneficiary form, your beneficiary designation(s) will apply to all current and future retirement and welfare plans under which you are entitled to a benefit that is paid to a beneficiary. If you want to choose different beneficiaries for different plans, you must complete your beneficiary designation(s) on Benefits Access or submit a Designation of Beneficiary form for each plan.

The names of the plans administered by the General Board and a brief description of each follow:

Retirement Plans

  • United Methodist Personal Investment Plan—A retirement plan available to lay employees and clergy.
  • Clergy Retirement Security Program—A plan providing retirement benefits for certain United Methodist clergy. This plan includes any account balance participants may have in the defined contribution portion of the Plan, in the Ministerial Pension Plan or in a Pre-82 Plan reserve account.
  • Retirement Plan for General Agencies—A plan providing retirement benefits for clergy and lay employees of United Methodist general agencies.
  • Collins Pension Plan for Missionaries—A plan providing monthly retirement benefits to eligible missionaries.
  • Horizon 401(k) Plan—A retirement plan available to clergy and lay employees of for-profit and not-for-profit entities.

Welfare Plans

  • Comprehensive Protection Plan—A plan providing welfare benefits, including disability, death and survivor benefits, for eligible United Methodist clergy.
  • UMLifeOptions plans—Employer-sponsored plans providing supplemental death benefits to certain United Methodist clergy and primary or supplemental benefits to lay employees, depending on arrangements with the plan sponsor. Beneficiary forms for these plans will come directly from Unum. Call Unum at 1-800-985-0242 to obtain a new form.

Beneficiary Designation Forms

If you do not wish to use Benefits Access to designate a beneficiary, use one of these forms to update your beneficiary designation information (click on the link, fill out the form, print it, sign it, and mail or fax it to the General Board):

More Information

For more information about beneficiaries, contingent annuitants or your benefits under General Board plans, visit Benefits Access or the General Board website, or call the General Board at 1-800-851-2201. You also may wish to speak to an attorney about the specific legal and tax implications regarding beneficiary designations.

For specific legal implications regarding beneficiary designations, please consult your attorney.

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